WEISGRAM et al. v. MARLEY CO. et al.
1. At trial and on appeal, the suit of the Weisgram heirs was consolidated with an action brought against Marley Company by State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, insurer of the Weisgram home, to recover benefits State Farm paid for the damage to the Weisgram townhouse and an adjoining townhouse. State Farm was dismissed from the appeal after certiorari was granted. For purposes of this opinion, we generally refer to the plaintiffs below, and to the petitioners before us, simply as “Weisgram.”
2. The Tenth Circuit has held it inappropriate for an appellate court to direct the entry of judgment as a matter of law based on the trial court’s erroneous admission of evidence, because to do so would be unfair to a party who relied on the trial court’s evidentiary rulings. See Kinser v. Gehl Co., 184 F.3d 1259, 1267, 1269 (CA10 1999). The Fourth, Sixth, and Eighth Circuits recently have issued decisions, in accord with the position earlier advanced by the Third Circuit, directing the entry of judgment as a matter of law based on proof rendered insufficient by the deletion of improperly admitted evidence. See Redman v. John D. Brush & Co., 111 F.3d 1174, 1178—1179 (CA4 1997); Smelser v. Norfolk Southern R. Co., 105 F.3d 299, 301, 306 (CA6 1997); Wright v. Willamette Industries, Inc., 91 F.3d 1105, 1108 (CA8 1996); accord, Aloe Coal Co. v. Clark Equipment Co., 816 F.2d 110, 115—116 (CA3 1987).
3. We agreed to decide only the issue of the authority of a court of appeals to direct the entry of judgment as a matter of law, and accordingly accept as final the decision of the Eighth Circuit holding the testimony of Weisgram’s experts unreliable, and therefore inadmissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 702, as explicated in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). We also accept as final the Eighth Circuit’s determination that the remaining, properly admitted, evidence was insufficient to make a submissible case under state law.
4. “Rule 50. Judgment as a Matter of Law in Jury Trials; Alternative Motion for New Trial; Conditional Rulings. “(a) Judgment as a Matter of Law. “(1) If during a trial by jury a party has been fully heard on an issue and there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue, the court may determine the issue against that party and may grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against that party with respect to a claim or defense that cannot under the controlling law be maintained or defeated without a favorable finding on that issue. “(2) Motions for judgment as a matter of law may be made at any time before submission of the case to the jury. Such a motion shall specify the judgment sought and the law and the facts on which the moving party is entitled to the judgment. “(b) Renewing Motion for Judgment after Trial; Alternative Motion for New Trial. If, for any reason, the court does not grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law made at the close of all the evidence, the court is considered to have submitted the action to the jury subject to the court’s later deciding the legal questions raised by the motion. The movant may renew its request for judgment as a matter of law by filing a motion no later than 10 days after entry of judgment–and may alternatively request a new trial or join a motion for a new trial under Rule 59. In ruling on a renewed motion, the court may: “(1) if a verdict was returned: “(A) allow the judgment to stand, “(B) order a new trial, or “(C) direct entry of judgment as a matter of law; or “(2) if no verdict was returned; “(A) order a new trial, or “(B) direct entry of judgment as a matter of law. “(c) Granting Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law; Conditional Rulings; New Trial Motion. “(1) If the renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law is granted, the court shall also rule on the motion for a new trial, if any, by determining whether it should be granted if the judgment is thereafter vacated or reversed, and shall specify the grounds for granting or denying the motion for the new trial. If the motion for a new trial is thus conditionally granted, the order thereon does not affect the finality of the judgment. In case the motion for a new trial has been conditionally granted and the judgment is reversed on appeal, the new trial shall proceed unless the appellate court has otherwise ordered. In case the motion for a new trial has been conditionally denied, the appellee on appeal may assert error in that denial; and if the judgment is reversed on appeal, subsequent proceedings shall be in accordance with the order of the appellate court. “(2) Any motion for a new trial under Rule 59 by a party against whom judgment as a matter of law is rendered shall be filed no later than 10 days after entry of the judgment. “(d) Same: Denial of Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law. If the motion for judgment as a matter of law is denied, the party who prevailed on that motion may, as appellee, assert grounds entitling the party to a new trial in the event the appellate court concludes that the trial court erred in denying the motion for judgment. If the appellate court reverses the judgment, nothing in this rule precludes it from determining that the appellee is entitled to a new trial, or from directing the trial court to determine whether a new trial shall be granted.”
5. According to the Advisory Committee Notes to the 1963 Rule 50 amendments, this “omission” was not inadvertent: “Subdivision (d) does not attempt a regulation of all aspects of the procedure where the motion for judgment n.o.v. and any accompanying motion for a new trial are denied, since the problems have not been fully canvassed in the decisions and the procedure is in some respects still in a formative stage. It is, however, designed to give guidance on certain important features of the practice.” Advisory Committee’s Notes on Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 50(d), 28 U.S.C. App., p. 769.
6. Section 2106 reads: “The Supreme Court or any other court of appellate jurisdiction may affirm, modify, vacate, set aside or reverse any judgment, decree, or order of a court lawfully brought before it for review, and may remand the cause and direct the entry of such appropriate judgment, decree, or order, or require such further proceedings to be had as may be just under the circumstances.”
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